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More Than Half of Those in Worldwide Study Overweight or Obese

Oct. 22, 2007 -- The obesity epidemic is actually a worldwide pandemic that has global implications for health and disease, new research shows.

In one of the largest studies ever to examine obesity rates across the globe, researchers found that more than 60% of men and 50% of women were either overweight or obese.

They concluded that obesity is a growing problem in all regions of the world, even among traditionally lean Asian populations.

"The study shows that excess body weight is pandemic, with one-half to two-thirds of the overall study population being overweight or obese," researcher Beverley Balkau, PhD, of the French health service INSERM, says in a news release.

Obesity Worldwide

The study involved 69,409 men and 98,750 women from 63 countries across five continents evaluated by their primary care doctors for body weight, height, cardiovascular disease (heart disease or stroke), diabetes, and waist circumference. The U.S. was not included in the study.

Waist circumference is now considered an important marker of obesity-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. A waist circumference of more than 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women is considered a risk factor for these diseases.

The people in the study had visited their doctor on one of two specially designated days in which detailed information on weight, height, waist circumference, and disease history were collected for the trial, providing a snapshot of the prevalence of obesity worldwide.

Body mass index (BMI) was calculated from the weight and height measurements. BMI looks at a person's weight in relation to height and is used to determine obesity and overweight. Forty percent of men and 30% of women met the criteria for being overweight, meaning they had a BMI of 25 to 29.9.

Fully a quarter of men and women met the BMI definition of obese (BMI of 30 or greater), but obesity rates did differ by region, ranging from a low of 7% among men and women living in southern and eastern Asian countries to a high of 36% among men and women living in Canada.

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